Posted by StringOvation Team on Jul 16, 2018
Professional music careers are competitive, so a unique performance style and personalized "brand" are essential to cultivating a unique niche in the audience market. That is easier said than done, particularly if you're an introvert by nature, or if you are more comfortable being a wallflower than an on-stage star.
It's time to learn how to package yourself - in terms of marketing and promotion - as well as your performance style - while you work to build and nurture your following.
Cultivate a theme, signature look, or trend
Does the niche you're going for allow for freedom of personal expression? Lucky you - that allows for a smoother pathway. If you're aiming for "all classical, all the way," there's still room for personalized expression and the creation of a signature look or theme.
Yes, professional classical musicians are known for wearing lots of black and formal attire. Looking beyond clothing choices, at hairstyles, glasses, accessories, etc., gives the audience a better idea of individual musicians' personality types. Where in the physical presentation department can you showcase something personal or unique to who you are? Try to find those features or traits and develop them, and then making them recognizable in photos and film (where applicable) demos.
Similarly, many young, contemporary, classical musicians excel via trendsetting leaps, such as FUSE or Lindsey Stirling. What's your break-out-of-the-box calling?
Assemble a Performance Portfolio
Most musicians wind up putting together a performance portfolio as part of a music school audition. If you haven't done so in the past, visit, How to Put Together a Performance Portfolio, for detailed instructions.
Your portfolio serves as a job resume, and like a resume, it's not one-size-fits-all. Depending on the venue, who will be listening, the target audience preferences, you should tailor your portfolio accordingly when it comes to things like:
- Cover letter wording
- Any related photos or videos
- The format and overall presentation
- Content materials and their order
- Music selections (original or not)
The process of assembling a portfolio provides first-timer learning moments when it comes to your signature (branded) self. It's through this process that you'll contemplate what sets you apart from other performers assembling similar portfolios for the same purpose. What is it about you that sets you apart, that is something different, that will spark immediate interests (create a hook) for the stranger who opens it up and takes it all in?
Show the first draft to peers, your teacher(s), family, friends and other musicians, requesting honest feedback. Use what you learn and make changes or tweaks, so the You in you shines through.
Consider a Logo
Have you considered designing your own logo? Logos become a personalized, unified "stamp" that appears on everything you offer, from website and social media accounts, to envelopes, letterhead, album covers, business cards, etc. It's also a sign that you're thinking professionally and in terms of marketing, which are essential to a successful music career.
Create Your Own Demo Album(s)
The good news for 21st-century aspiring musicians is that creating a clean, professional recording is easier than ever. With a nice quiet (and preferably acoustic-friendly) space and a program like Garage Band, you'll be off and running. It's wise to create demo albums that are:
- Short: Three songs is typically sufficient unless instructed otherwise as recipients have lots of portfolios/albums to sift through.
- Impressive: Highlight your best work, preferably pieces with strong beginnings to hook listeners immediately.
- Tailored: Don't use the same album for all situations. Learn as much as you can about the people making the decisions so you can tailor the pieces with respect to their ears.
Remember, they're listening to demos all day long. There's no room for mediocrity.
Use Professional Photographers and Videographers
Unless you have a friend who is exceptional (not just good) at photography and/or videography, invest in professional-level work. Quality matters, especially when you're putting your best face forward. The more professional your portfolio looks, the better first impressions it makes.
Find a photographer who resonates with you, so you feel safe and comfortable when expressing yourself in front of the lens. You also want to work with one who is known for doing great headshots (a photography niche of its own). The right photographer and videographer will inherently pull out and highlight those personal, unique qualities you're accentuating for marketing purposes.
Visit our post on, How to Choose a Headshot Photographer for Your Performance Portfolio, for more on the topic.
Being a talented musician is great but, these days, it's not enough to propel you to the top or anywhere near stardom. Learning how to package and showcase your unique performance style and brand is the only way to captivate the attention of those who offer the venues, publicity and promotional power to help you rise above the crowd.
Above image of Lindsey Stirling courtesy of lindseystirling.com